Great Falls Park

Great Falls Park

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Great Falls Park

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Great Falls Park is a small National Park Service site in Virginia, United States. Situated on 800 acres (3.65 kmĀ²) along the banks of the Potomac River in northern Fairfax County, the park is a disconnected but integral part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The Great Falls of the Potomac River are near the northern boundary of the park, as are the remains of the Patowmack Canal, the first canal in the United States that used locks to raise and lower boats.


Native American petroglyphs have been discovered within the park on cliffs overlooking Difficult Run.

The Patowmack Canal, which George Washington partially funded, was a one-mile (1.6 km) bypass canal that began operating in 1785 to give small barges the opportunity to skirt around the falls and to distribute manufactured goods upstream and raw materials downstream. The park visitor center has the bottom portions of two wooden canal lock gates excavated in the 1980s from the canal. The gates survived from at least the 1830s and were found during restoration projects on stonework which were erected for the canal locks. Stonemason marks found on the stones are unique to each artisan and are identical to some found in foundation stones of the White House and the U.S. Capitol.

During the construction of the canal, blasting powder, which at the time was essentially gunpowder, was used to blast through solid rocks. This is one of the first known examples of blasting powder being used for...
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